Japan a long way from resolving nuclear crisis

TOKYO-Global anxiety rose over radiation
from Japan’s earthquake damaged nuclear plant even as engineers had some success
in the battle to avert disaster from the world’s worst atomic crisis since
Chernobyl.

The high-stakes drama at the
battered Fukushima nuclear power complex is playing out while the Asian nation
grapples with the rising death toll from the 11 March double disaster of an
earthquake and tsunami.

Officials estimate at least 21,000
people are dead or missing.

Technicians working inside an
evacuation zone round the stricken plant on Japan’s northeast Pacific coast
have finally managed to attach power cables to all six reactors and started a
water pump at one of them to cool overheating nuclear fuel rods.

Underlining the dangers, however,
smoke rose briefly from two damaged reactors, forcing workers to evacuate for a
while.

Away from the plant, mounting
evidence of radiation in vegetables, water and milk spread jitters among
Japanese and abroad despite officials’ assurances levels were not dangerous.

The operator of the stricken plant,
Tokyo Electric Power Company, said a small trace of radiation had been found in
the Pacific sea waters nearby, but said levels were very low and posed no
immediate danger.

“It’s a lot more serious than
anybody thought in the early days when we thought that this kind of problem can
be limited to 20 to 30 kilometres,” Peter Cordingley, spokesman for the
World Health Organisation’s (WHO) regional office, said.

“It’s safe to suppose that
some contaminated produce got out of the contamination zone.”

However, Cordingley said there was
no evidence of contaminated food reaching other countries from the Fukushima
complex, which lies 150 miles north of Tokyo.

The official death toll – 8,805 by
Tuesday morning – is certain to keep rising, with another 12,654 reported
missing.

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